Anthony Bennett has been given another opportunity to grow his basketball career in the NBA, signing a 2 year deal with the Brooklyn Nets on July 14, 2016. This will be a fresh start for the 2013 #1 overall draft pick, whose first 3 seasons in the league have been underachieving to say the least. Anthony Bennett is seeking redemption and needs to show that he belongs in this league. Using the first 3 years as a learning experience, Bennett knows the time is now.
Growing up in Brampton Ontario, Bennett eventually committed to UNLV where he was a standout in his only college season. Averaging over 16 points and 8 rebounds per game, Bennett led UNLV to the NCAA tournament before being eliminated in the second round to California. After winning MWC Freshman of the Year and being named to the First-Team All-MWC, Bennett declared for the NBA draft. With Cleveland in the second year of a re-building phase, the Cavaliers selected Bennett with the first overall pick, making him the first Canadian selected first overall in NBA draft history.
The rookie season for Bennett was disappointing, as he averaged only 4.2 points and 3 rebounds off the bench for the Cavaliers. Despite being part of one of the weakest draft classes of the millennium, Bennett failed to make the All-NBA rookie team. Prior to the following season, Bennett was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of a 3-team deal that brought all-star Kevin Love to Cleveland. In his second NBA season, Bennett only saw small increases in his productivity and was eventually bought out by the Timberwolves. Then what seemed like the perfect opportunity was presented to Anthony Bennett, an offer from his hometown Toronto Raptors. Unlike his first two years in the league with young and developing teams, Bennett joined a playoff contending team and did not face the same pressure. It was a low risk, potentially high reward for a Raptors team looking to not only improve as a team but bring energy to a Canadian crowd. Throughout much of the season, Bennett spent a lot time with the Raptors 905, becoming the first #1 overall pick to play in the NBA D-League. However, while appearing in 19 games for the Raptors, Bennett still struggled and many analysts questioned his work ethic and love for the game. The Raptors eventually waived Bennett, making it his third team in as many seasons to waive/trade him.
The release showed to be a wake up call for young Bennett, who continued to put in gym work even when he was not signed to an NBA team. Earlier this summer, Bennett joined the Canadian Men’s National Team to participate in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying tournament held in Manila, Philippines. This marked the 12th time Bennett represented Canada in an international tournament. In an exhibition game prior to the FIBA tournament, Bennett showed he still has superb athleticism when he absolutely POSTERIZED Italy’s Marco Cusin. In the 4 tournament games, Bennett averaged 6.8 points and 5 rebounds before Canada lost in the Finals to Team France.
Trimming down has been a high priority for Bennett, who has been highly criticized for his weight since coming into the league. Standing 6’8 and spending most of his playing time at the Power Forward position, Bennett needs to work on his conditioning to remain a player in the league. The Brooklyn Nets have presented Bennett with potentially his last opportunity to prove he is not a bust. For the Nets, it is a low-risk potentially high reward for a team who is currently re-building without first round draft picks. Head Coach Kenny Atkinson has stated that building up Bennett’s confidence is just as if not more important than working on his game. “He’s a guy we’ve got to build up in confidence. I think because he’s been torn down a little – we’ve got to build him up again” Atkinson said of the signing.
Discovering his love for the game and having fun may be all it takes for Bennett to jumpstart his NBA career. Expectations for him to reach superstar level like other #1 overall picks selected from Cleveland are pretty well gone but it doesn’t mean Bennett cannot be a solid player at the NBA level. Even though he may not be playing for the Toronto Raptors anymore, many Canadians are rooting for Bennett to succeed and have a successful basketball career. The 23 year old will need to have an ALL IN attitude and continue to work hard if he wishes to stay in the league. All the best to Canada’s own Anthony Bennett!